Re: Protean Self-Transformation

Gregory Houston (
Mon, 31 Mar 1997 18:46:30 -0600

Lee Daniel Crocker wrote:

> It is not an error, and you still have yet to provide any evidence of
> your preposterous claim that computers cannot experience emotion.

True, I have shown no evidence. And you have shown no evidence of your
"preposterous" claim that computers can experience emotions. I can only
show that there are no computers today which experience emotions. You
cannot show me a single computer that does experience emotions. I have
merely shown reason.

> A
> simple thought experiment should suffice to show your mistake: Other
> mammals clearly have emotional states. Fear, lust, hunger, and other
> experiences are not unique to Homo Sapiens. But our machinery is
> different.

The machinery is different, but the machinery/hardware is still capable
of experiencing emotions. Computers today are not. We have a great deal
more in common with mammals than we do computers.

> Even if we postulate that one must evolve a more complex brain than
> those other creatures to have emotional states similar to ours, it is
> clear that the emotional states are felt in /whatever hardware/ is
> available to feel them.

Whoa! I never said anything about requiring more complex brains to feel
emotions ... I said that appropriate brain/hardware is necessary. As a
matter of fact I believe the simplest of mammal brains can experience
emotions, though the most complex of computers cannot. There are
probably an infinite number of hardware designs with the potential to
feel emotions, but the computer is not yet one of them.

> It is palpable nonsense to say that because
> my mouth is dry when I feel fear, that fear therefore requires a mouth
> and salivary glands.

No, but they need some way to feel it, and IMHO the more things to feel
with the better as far as I am concerned. If they cannot feel it then it
is not an emotion, it is merely an abstract thought.

> Fear /is/ the cognitive state associated with
> those bodily reactions, or whatever the reactions to it are in another
> kind of body with different inputs and outputs.

Artificial Emotion Program:

IF x occurs THEN run fear subroutine

fear subroutine:
PLAY scream.wav audio file
DISPLAY ominous.jpg image file

Is that an emotion!?! When exactly did the computer feel an emotion? The
computer is processing its data and x occurs. But it did not feel x, it
merely recognizes x in a very detached manner. The computer then runs
the fear subroutine. The computer "appears" to be displaying an emotion,
but it never felt one. And it does not feel itself playing the sound
file or displaying the image. It merely does it without feeling. Perhaps
you would like to rewrite my hypothetical program above to show me how
theoretically you believe a computer could experience emotions without
hardware for experiencing sensations. Anyone? Please, this would be most
enlightening. You might even recieve the Nobel Prize.

> They won't feel fear in exactly the way I do, but then neither do
> you or anyone else. That doesn't mean you don't feel fear at all.

They won't feel it if you don't give them something to feel with. What
part of your computer has the ability to feel? Exactly which part(s) can

> Who decides what hardware is "proper" for experiencing fear? It obviously
> doesn't require arms or legs; a paraplegic can feel it. It doesn't
> require sight or hearing or smell or touch; those whithout those inputs
> can still fear. Don't patients with artificial hearts feel fear? Those
> breathing with a respirator? Those on dialysis? As should be obvious
> by this reduction, the only organ needed to experience fear is a brain,
> and whatever inputs to it one happens to have available.

Only one thing is required, humans and other mammals tend to have a
great number of physical organs to feel with. Computers have zero.

> Please give me evidence of this. Why is my assumption that a computer's
> cognition /does/ include states analagous to our emotions have any
> less weight than your assumption that they don't? I refuse to be so
> anthropocentric without reason. We are not unique.

Because emotion is not simply a cognitive thing. Take the physical
aspect away from emotion, and there is no emotion, there is only
cognition, thought. Cognition can influence emotion, and emotion can
influence cognition, but they are not the same thing. The primitive
cognition of the limbic system can influence emotions in less evolved
animals, and the emotions of less evolved animals can influence the
cognition taking place in their limbic systems. But both things are
required, an appropriate program and appropriate hardware.

Your statement that any hardware will do is just as ludicrous as saying
any program will do.


Gregory Houston                 Triberian Institute of Emotive Education  
phone:    816.561.1524
cellular: 816.807.6660          snail: PO Box 32046 Kansas City MO 64171

"Empowered, impassioned, we have a lust for life insatiable!"